The International Boxing Hall of Fame will make room for a Cobra, a Hawk and a Buddy this summer.
Former welterweight and junior middleweight world champion Donald Curry, known as “The Lone Star Cobra,” Julian “The Hawk” Jackson, who won world titles at junior middleweight and middleweight, and James “Buddy” McGirt, who won world titles at junior welterweight and welterweight, were elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in the modern boxer category in balloting results announced on Wednesday.
All three, who have each been on the ballot for several years, will be inducted during the 30th annual induction weekend on June 9 at the Canastota, New York, shrine.
Members of the Boxing Writers Association and a panel of international boxing historians elected them from a ballot that included 32 candidates who have not fought for at least five years.
Curry (34-6, 25 KOs), 57, of Fort Worth, Texas, who boxed from 1980 to 1997, was an explosive puncher with a breathtaking but brief prime who won a vacant welterweight title by 15-round decision over Jun-Suk Hwang in Fort Worth in 1983. Two fights later, Curry outpointed Marlon Starling to unify two titles in 1984.
In 1985, Curry scored a huge win when he knocked out Milton McCrory in the second round to win the third belt and become the undisputed champion.
Curry, highly ranked on most pound-for-pound lists, made seven defenses before losing the belts in 1986 when he suffered a sixth-round knockout loss to Lloyd Honeyghan in a monumental upset.
Curry moved up to junior middleweight and challenged Hall of Famer Mike McCallum for a title in 1987 but got knocked out in the fifth round. He eventually won a junior middleweight belt in 1988 by ninth-round stoppage of Gianfranco Rosi but lost it by decision to Rene Jacquot in his first defense in 1989 in an upset.
A faded Curry got shots at Michael Nunn for a middleweight title in 1990 and at then-junior middleweight titlist Terry Norris in 1991 but got knocked out in both fights. He retired but eventually returned for two more bouts in 1997 before calling it quits for good.
He has been one of the biggest names on the Hall of Fame ballot for years and was thrilled to finally get the call.
“Alright! Now we’re talking. It’s an honor,” Curry said. “This is the greatest day of my life. I’m overwhelmed to get this call from the Hall of Fame. It’s a dream come true.”
Jackson (55-6, 49 KOs), 58, of the U.S. Virgin Islands, boxed from 1981 to 1998 and may very well be the most destructive pure puncher in boxing history.
He got stopped in two rounds by McCallum in his first junior middleweight title shot in 1986 but the next year stopped In Chul Baek in three rounds to win a vacant title, which he defended three times, including with knockout wins against Buster Drayton and Hall of Famer Norris.
Jackson moved up to middleweight in 1990 and sensationally knocked out Herol Graham with a thunderous right hand in the second round for a vacant world title. He made four defenses before losing the title by knockout to fellow fearsome puncher Gerald McClellan in 1993, as well as suffering a knockout to McClellan in the 1994 rematch.
Jackson would win another middleweight belt by second-round knockout against Agostino Cardamone in 1995 but lost it to Quincy Taylor by sixth-round KO later that year in his final world title bout.
“I tell you what, I’m speechless. This is a tremendous honor,” Jackson said. “Thank God for his grace and mercy. Wow! It’s amazing! I really don’t have words for this but eventually they will come.”
McGirt (73-6-1, 48 KOs), 54, from Brentwood, New York, boxed from 1982 to 1997 and won two titles despite chronic shoulder problems. In his 39th pro fight he captured his first belt when he stopped Frankie Warren for a vacant junior welterweight title in 1988, avenging a decision loss from a nontitle fight two years earlier.
McGirt, who became a top trainer after his fighting days, lost his belt in his second defense by 12th-round knockout to Meldrick Taylor in 1988.
McGirt ground out 16 wins in a row to earn a welterweight title shot against Simon Brown in 1991 and won a decision. He made two defenses before losing the title in 1993 to Hall of Famer Pernell Whitaker, who also beat him in a rematch in 1994 in his final title fight.
“To be honest, I can’t even talk right now,” McGirt said. “This shows you’re appreciated by the boxing world and that all the hard work and dedication pays off.”
In the old-timer category, former welterweight world champion Tony DeMarco (58-12-1, 33 KOs), 86, of Boston, was elected. He boxed from 1948 to 1962 and was a television staple during boxing’s golden era in the 1950s.
“I am honored to be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame Class of 2019,” DeMarco said. “I am grateful to the international sportswriters and to the boxing community.”
DeMarco won the welterweight title by 14th-round knockout of Johnny Saxton in 1955 at Boston Garden before losing it two months later by 12th-round knockout to Hall of Famer Carmen Basilio in the first of their two classic slugfests.
DeMarco rematched Basilio but again got knocked out in the 12th round in a bid to regain the title in the 1955 Ring Magazine fight of the year.
Three were elected in the non-participant category:
Beloved and legendary publicist Lee Samuels, a former Philadelphia sportswriter, who has worked for Top Rank for decades and been closely involved in numerous mega fights involving fighters such as Marvin Hagler, Sugar Ray Leonard, Oscar De La Hoya, Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao and many more.
“The biggest honor in the sport of boxing is induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame and the greatest honor any publicist can hope to get,” Samuels said. “This is a tremendous honor. I now will be in the Hall of Fame with my former boss, the best publicist in the sport of boxing, Irving Rudd. And I wouldn’t be where I am without (Top Rank chairman) Bob Arum.”
Promoter and matchmaker Don Elbaum, who promoted his first fight when he was 18 but won’t tell anyone his age, began promoting in the 1960s. He was involved in Willie Pep and Sugar Ray Robinson bouts near the end of their careers and had a knack for coming up with interesting promotional ploys like the time he put on a fight between winless heavyweights in an attempt to determine the world’s worst heavyweight. For better or worst, Elbaum was also instrumental in getting promoter Don King started in boxing.
“I’ve been in the game over a thousand years and this is one of the greatest days of my life, absolutely one of the greatest days of my life,” Elbaum said. “This is like winning the heavyweight championship of the world.”
“You don’t know how much this means to me. This is unbelievable. Fantastic,” Jutras said. “My whole life has been dedicated and attached to the sport of boxing and this is the greatest news I could ever get. Being recognized by the International Boxing Hall of Fame is the greatest reward that anybody can ever get.”
Two were elected in the observer category, including longtime ESPN broadcaster Teddy Atlas. Since the inception of the old ESPN2 series “Friday Night Fights” in 1998, the outspoken Atlas has been a key voice of boxing on various ESPN platforms. He also has called Olympic boxing for NBC.
“The sport of boxing has given me direction and a clarity for the difference between work and passion and a job and a purpose,” Atlas said. “It has also given me opportunities to share special moments with my family, as it has now with the news that I have been elected into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.”
Elected posthumously in the observer category was famed Puerto Rican journalist Mario Rivera Martino, who wrote for Ring Magazine and other publications covering boxing for more than 60 years beginning in the 1940s.